Florida Georgia Citrus family farm pivots amid coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 6:06 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 18:06:26-04

MONTICELLO, Fla. (WTXL) — A fourth-generation family farm, Florida Georgia Citrus, has been growing near Monticello since 2014.

Each season is a little different, but the owners say they've never weathered anything like the coronavirus pandemic.

In a quiet corner of Jefferson County, a process that's played out for thousands of years repeats as thousands of green fruits turn into oranges.

"We work 12 months a year, almost 365 days a year in the grove," said Kim Jones.

Just as citrus is a major part of Florida's economy, it's the lifeblood of Jones' family business.

"We packed about a million pounds last year," Jones said.

A new season brings new challenges.

This season they came in the form of a pandemic that closed the businesses that normally buy all the fruit.

"The food service and brewery side just dried up," said Jones.

Jones and his family had to pivot.

"When we don't sell the round fruit, we juice it," he said.

That juice is squeezing business to new customers in the retail market and keeping jobs filled on the farm.

There are roughly 4,000 citrus trees on the Jones property. Come fall, they'll hire about 40 workers to pick all the fruit.

"We're already looking at all of our workers," said Dale Aldridge, who manages operations at the farm. "They'll probably have to have masks on especially inside the packing shed."

He says almost every aspect has had to adapt to a new world.

"We are very fortunate with our business that we're outside and social distance is not an issue," said Aldridge.

Since trees don't stop growing during a pandemic, their work continues to keep a family and a Florida tradition alive.

"We have lost some sales because of COVID, but also we've gained some business because of COVID," Aldridge said.

They'll start harvesting fruit in November and many of the oranges they pick will go to schools in North Florida and South Georgia as part of lunches for students.

Florida Georgia Citrus also manufactures their own line of body products, Satsuma juice and syrup, and offers family recipes on their website, available by clicking here.